Martin would be 'perfect candidate', says loyalist leader
Published 16/08/2011 | 05:00
A LOYALIST leader has described President Mary McAleese's husband as the "perfect candidate" to take over from her.
Senator Martin McAleese got the ringing endorsement from Ulster Defence Association leader Jackie McDonald, a controversial loyalist leader he helped bring in from the cold.
"I think it would be perfect for everybody concerned if Martin was to take the position," he said.
Mr McDonald praised the work of Dr McAleese, who played golf with him and other loyalist leaders in locations such as the K Club in Kildare. It was part of Dr McAleese's efforts to support his wife's "bridge-building" initiative by breaking down the distrust loyalists held for the Irish Government.
Mr McDonald said that Dr McAleese had the qualities needed to become president.
"Although he's the President's husband and he's always there with her, Martin's one hell of a character himself.
"And he can be diplomatic, he can be very good at negotiations and he certainly stuck the rough journey," he said.
Dr McAleese is the latest person to be tipped as a presidential contender, following the withdrawal of Gay Byrne and David Norris from the race.
But even Mr McDonald himself admitted that he doubted that Dr McAleese would put himself forward, given the 14 years he had already spent in Aras an Uachtarain.
"I speak to Martin quite regularly; he was in Italy last week and we were talking on the phone and it's never been mentioned, honestly," he told BBC Radio Ulster's 'Talkback' programme yesterday. If Dr McAleese was to enter and win the race, it would mean that the McAleese family would hold the office for a continuous 21-year period. However, he was recently appointed to the Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and also as chancellor of Dublin City University's governing authority.
A source close to Dr McAleese said he had dealt with the matter during a 'Late Late Show' interview in December 2009, where he said he would not be a candidate.
"This situation has not changed," the source said.